Memories to Hold

In August, I went on vacation to New York City for the first time in my life. I had decided in the spring that I wanted to make visiting that city a priority. There were two time slots I had available to travel during the summer and wouldn’t you know the second one coincided with one of my favorite bands, Toad the Wet Sprocket, playing at City Winery NYC. Of course, by the time I had made my decision to take the trip, there were only VIP experience tickets left, so I sprung for that without hesitation. Within days, the band added a second show to the venue that same night, as well as announcing that New York would be one of the places where they would celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their album fear by playing it through in its entirety. I bought tickets for the second show right away and secured a seat next to the stage. I also decided I would get a ticket to see Toad at the Bergen PAC in New Jersey the following night. I’m going to summarize all three of those concerts in this one post.

I’m a member of a Facebook group for Glen Philips fans and so I had made some online friends through the group who I knew would be attending the concerts too. On Monday, August 22, 2016, I arrived at City Winery just before the doors were opened to VIPs and immediately ran into one of the ladies from the group who was sharing in the VIP experience.  As part of the VIP experience, I received a signed Toad lanyard, fear poster, got to say hello to the band, and had a great photo taken with them, and then listened to a couple songs played acoustically, “Nanci” from Dulcinea and one of their best known songs, “All I Want” from fear. My seat for the first show was at the far right corner of the stage, which wasn’t ideal, but of course, I was feeling so happy to be there it didn’t matter. I was sat at a table with three ladies, who each came on their own, and we made small talk before opener Luke Wade took to the stage. Toad fans are fairly friendly.

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Luke Wade at City Winery NYC

I’d seen Luke play once before when he opened for Toad in San Diego in July. This time, I decided to buy a couple of his albums at the show, because I like his voice and song interpretation.  Pressed for time because of the back-to-back show schedule, he played just a few tunes from his forthcoming album, Of Ghosts. He introduced his first song “Passenger Side,” noting it represented, “working to keep your love young” no matter your age. Commenting on “While I Was Away” he mentioned about that song’s origins, “Being on the road and trying to make it work, it can be a tough thing.”  He followed that with “Kiss and Make Up.” He finished with a song called “Til the Fighting Is Through” from his previous album The River. I love the line in this song, “The things that make you different are the things that make you great.”

 

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Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at City Winery NYC, First Show

It was strange to see Toad the Wet Sprocket begin their show with “Walk On the Ocean” as this is often the closing song of the night, but that’s what they did as Glen announced, “The first twelve songs are going to be fear, in album order.” That first show I spent some time trying to take some good pictures (including moving around to the center aisle and with mixed results because of the lighting), but sitting in rapt attention whenever they got to a song I hadn’t heard live before. Here is the set list for that early show:

  1. Walk On the Ocean” I borrowed a line from this song for the post title.
  2. Is It For Me
  3. Butterflies
  4. Nightingale Song
  5. Hold Her Down” Glen took a moment to say, “We don’t play this song except when we’re doing the fear shows because the subject matter isn’t fun.” He also talked about how Tori Amos helped with the creation of the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) and how Toad the Wet Sprocket was an early supporter of RAINN and were supporting a fundraising campaign for RAINN to coincide with the summer #fear25 tour.
  6. Pray Your Gods” At the end of this song, Glen turned to bassist Dean Dinning and asked, “Dean, do you want to flip the record?” To which Dean perfectly mimed the actions of turning over a record with accompanying vocal sound effects.

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    Dean Dinning (and Randy Guss) of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  7. Before You Were Born
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    Glen’s Black Shoes

    Something to Say” After this one, someone in the audience had something to say, “Why are you wearing shoes Glen?”  Glen is known for performing barefoot at the majority of Toad concerts. To which he replied, “The floor was wet in the green room…I’m making a political statement. I’m wearing black shoes to convey my sadness.”

  9. In My Ear” There was a brief interruption of the set list as Dean, drummer Randy Guss, and Glen (whistling), provided an impromptu teaser of Stevie’s Wonder “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
  10. All I Want” Glen commented regarding this song, “I’m so glad we didn’t put all the singles at the front of the album. It would make these shows so weird. We were really smart.”
  11. Stories I Tell” This was probably my most anticipated song of the night. I’m surprised they don’t play this one more often live. Guitarist Todd Nichols’s playing and tone on this one was absolutely superb.  Toad could have been a grunge band if they wanted to.
  12. I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” On fear, the transition from the noisy, bleak, fuzziness  of “Stories I Tell” to the exquisite beauty of this anthem has to be one of the most genius moments on the album. It felt that way in the concert too, and especially for me, connecting with the lyrics of this song and feeling absolutely blessed to be on vacation in New York and seeing my favorite band. It was a moment of pure bliss. Final song of the fear album.

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    Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  13. Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin EP
  14. Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New. Glen took a moment to announce his new solo album Swallowed By the New, which was on sale during the tour and now available for pre-order from his website. When I first heard this song played solo acoustic by Glen, I thought that it should be a Toad song and was so glad the band decided to play their own arrangement of it live, because it kicks ass. The band needs to record this track in the future.
  15. Brother” from In Light Syrup. Good friend of the band, Jonathan Kingham always adds some cool playing on the keyboard during this song.

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    Jonathan Kingham Played Various Instruments to Back Toad the Wet Sprocket

  16. ENCORE “Nothing Can Stop My Love” This is a Roger Miller song that they’ve recorded for a forthcoming tribute album. After this one, Glen announced, “We’re out of time, so we’re going to play one more.”
  17. Fall Down” from Dulcinea

 

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Second Show at City Winery NYC

There was a fairly quick turn around between the two concerts, but I had the chance to talk to a few more friends I’d met through the Facebook group.We were all seated near each other at the front of the stage, just left of center. When Glen stepped up to the microphone he joked, “I have the feeling of deja vu.” Me too. He seemed extra chatty in the second show, more like one of his solo shows. I’m speculating he enjoyed some of City Winery’s fine beverages.  The band once again played through all of the fear album. After “Walk On the Ocean” Glen remarked, “We’re playing the album according to Dean’s copy that has skips in it. ‘In My Ear’… the chorus goes on for 30 minutes!” My first CD version of fear, I got second hand (a stoned guy was trying to give away his whole CD collection late one night.  I just took the one CD, but it skipped during “Nightingale Song,” so this comment made me laugh.)  Once again before “Hold Her Down” Glen made his announcement about RAINN and noted, “We had a song about rape culture before we had the phrase; and we still have the same damn problem!” Too true.  After “Pray Your Gods” Glen again noted it was time to switch sides, “Now the cassette comes out of the player. Take out a pencil and tighten it up. Flip it over.”

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Todd Nichols Playing a Custom Guitar He Built (“Nichols” on the Headstock)

Before “All I Want” Randy started drumming a Latin American-spiced rhythm while the other guys were getting ready for the song (there seemed to be more guitar changes than seem usual when playing straight through an album, I guess because you can’t just do blocks of songs that get played on one instrument). Anyway, Glen responded to that with “There’s an extra samba track on the original.” After the song finished, Glen stated, “I wanted to do a Christmas album all in the style of the X Files,” as he began slowly whistling the beginning of “Winter Wonderland.” On conclusion of “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” he commented, “Put the cassette back in the case.”  The songs played after the fear album were:

  1. Fly From Heaven” from Dulcinea
  2. Crazy Life” from Coil,  Todd Nichols sings lead vocal
  3. “Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New
  4. “Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin
  5. “Brother” from In Light Syrup. After this song, Randy came to the front of the stage for a couple minutes to thank the crowd for their support that night and the preceding years.
  6. “Nothing Can Stop My Love” Roger Miller cover
  7. Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  8. “Fall Down” from Dulcinea
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Glen Phillips Performing “Stories I Tell” at City Winery NYC

The following night, August 23, 2016, Toad the Wet Sprocket performed at the Bergen PAC in Englewood, New Jersey. I was pleased with myself for figuring out how to travel there on public transit from my hotel room near Times Square in New York, including getting on the correct bus from the Port Authority Transit Station. Arrived early and had dinner with some more fan friends (and Todd and Dean ended up dining in the same restaurant), but missed the first act, Daisie Ghost-Flower. This was another show that Toad was playing with Rusted Root and I found my reserved seat about six rows back from the stage (but not anywhere near my friends) shortly after Rusted Root’s set started. I was extremely tired from all the tourist activity (so much walking) I had been taking in over the past few days, the late night out the previous night, as well as the 8 mile run through Central Park that I had done that morning, that I actually dozed through most of their set.  This show was not one of the fear shows, so there were a few different songs added to the Toad set list. However, as Bergen PAC had a curfew of 10:30pm, the band only played 15 songs, even with limited breaks for comments from Glen.

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Dean Dinning of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performs at Bergen PAC

The set list from that night was:

  1. Good Intentions” from In Light Syrup
  2. Rings” from Coil
  3. The Moment” from New Constellation. Glen says, “Did you all have a very good time with Rusted Root? This is a song that we play.” Was that the most obvious/worst introduction to a song ever?
  4. “Fly From Heaven” from Dulcinea. When that finished, Glen said, “We’ll head back to the fear album for a second.”
  5. “Something to Say” from Fear
  6. “Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New
  7. “Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin. Glen gives the song title and mentions that it is on the EP of the same name that Toad recorded. He continues and says, “This is that. Not the EP. The song. I am doing a huge (job?) of rock ‘n’ roll banter.” Continuing with, “I’m going to scale the lighting and fly through this room.”  Randy says something from behind the drum kit I didn’t quite catch, but might have been, “We’re going to do this?” to which Glen responds, “Randy’s got fighting words happening right now.” Haha, I love the weird band banter. Just reminds you that these guys are regular people with varying personalities trying to get through playing a rock concert together (you know, in front of a few hundred people).  I was almost waiting for it to go full Spinal Tap. How appropriate the song after that then?

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    Randy Guss of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  8. “Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  9. Come Back Down” from Pale. Glen said an interesting thing relating to fear and Toad — that the ages of his children were like a map for his experience with the band. His youngest daughter is currently the age he was when the band formed and his oldest daughter is the age he was when they finished the fear tour. That put some perspective on that passage of time.

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    Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at Bergen PAC

  10. “Nightingale Song” from fear
  11. “All I Want” from fear
  12. “Fall Down” from Dulcinea
  13. ENCORE: “Nothing Can Stop My Love” Roger Miller cover
  14. “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” from fear
  15. “Walk On the Ocean” from fear
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Toad the Wet Sprocket at Bergen PAC

 

 

 

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